‘Peace, Development, Not Hindu-Muslim Politics’: What Voters in Loni Want

BJP's Nand Kishor Gurjar, who became MLA in 2017, has turned the town into a communally charged place, a voter says.

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Ghaziabad: Fifty-five-year old Alimuddin was among the first voters in Loni, Ghaziabad. He woke up at 6 am, offered his namaz and left for the polling booth. “It was very important for Muslims to come out and vote this time,” he said. 

He added that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, Nand Kishor Gurjar, has turned Loni into a communally charged place. Gurjar is a first-time MLA who won the assembly election in 2017.

Alimuddin says since Gurjar became Loni’s MLA, poor Muslims have suffered. He is a hawker who sells small decorative items.

“He has forcefully shut down many butcher shops. He didn’t allow us to offer sacrifice during our festival Bakraid,” he said, referring to the forcible shutting down of many meat shops in the area. 

Also read: Ground Report: On Poll Day, Dadri’s Rural Voters Foresee Churning Among Dominant Gurjars

Among all voters, burqa-clad Muslim women came out in large numbers to vote. A Muslim woman said, “How can I tell you who I am going to vote for? India has a secret ballot system.”

Mubina, a 60-year-old voter, said that she will vote for nalka (handpump), symbol of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which is contesting the polls in an alliance with the Samajwadi Party. 

She believes that only Madan Bhaiya, the RLD candidate, can give strong competition to BJP’s Gurjar. Both of them belong to the Gujjar community. 

She added, “I don’t want my vote to go to waste, as other candidates are not as strong as the RLD. Voting for any other candidate would have hampered his win.”  

“Whoever wins, I hope they work to maintain peace and calm in Loni, and focus on development instead of Hindu Muslim politics,” she said.

Still, this election is not a cakewalk, neither for the RLD nor the BJP candidate.

Though a large section of Gurjars and upper-caste Hindus were rallying behind their BJP leader, Jats were largely supporting the RLD.

Some people belonging to the Scheduled Caste community, including Jatavs, The Wire spoke with said they were supporting the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate, Haji Akil.

“Maine vikas ke liye vote kia hai. Mahila ki suraksha ke liye, aur apradh kam karne ke liye (I have voted for development, women safety and to reduce crime),” a woman who came out of the polling booth said. She added that the BJP MLA did very good work during his term.

However, Rohit Singh, a local reporter from Ghaziabad, said if Gurjar wins again, it will not be because of him, but because of the “Modi-Yogi” wave.

He added that most people across Ghaziabad district are voting for the SP-RLD alliance. “Most Muslims and Jats are voting for the alliance, and Gurjar vote is divided.”

BJP turncoat, Ranjeeta Dhama, is an independent Gurjar candidate, who is also likely to eat into small chunks of Hindu votes.

However, Aam Aadmi Party’s Sachin Sharma, a first-time candidate, did not appear to have a clout in this election.